Over the holiday season 2021, A Boy Called Christmas (Studio Canal/Netflix) sprinkled some magical cheer into our living rooms. The Third Floor London supported creative and technical visualization of key scenes in this Father Christmas origin story. Through work ranging from previs and techvis to postvis, TTF artists worked closely with Director Gil Kenan and VFX Supervisor Glen Pratt as filmmakers developed dynamic shots set within enchanting landscapes.
This included visualizing a variety of magically-inclined creatures – from reindeer to fairies, as well as interesting environments such as Elfhelm. “From innovative establishing shots to visualizing cameras running alongside Miika the mouse, it was a varied and creative show that was much fun to be a part of” remarked Visualization Supervisor Jen Kitching.
The visualization process was utilized by the film team to create multiple iterations of sequences and explore ideas and technical production plans prior to filming. An example of this is the opening shot where Aunt Ruth journeys to the house. The shot opens with the camera sweeping down to reveal Regent’s Park Road, with snow falling and the street full of Christmas decor. Aunt Ruth gets off a bus and goes around a corner with the camera following her all in one shot.
“Visualization helps filmmakers explore camera angles and pacing to ultimately land on the perfect shot for their story,” said Kitching. “For selected imagery such as in the opening sequence, we pushed our previs shots from Maya to Unreal Engine, where we advanced the visual quality of the previs environment, lighting and Christmas effects. We added the snow in Unreal and experimented with different levels of snow ‘in engine.’ After the plates were captured, the team postvised the shots through to Unreal using the same environment setup from the previs.”
Postvis was also used to visualize shots with long camera moves that were partially or fully CG. “Partially CG shots included either a start and end plate or sometimes both, where we’d go into a full CG shot with a CG cam takeover,” Kitching continued. “This included the scenic traveling aerial shot of Elfhelm going through the village and into a building to reveal the Elves’ toy workshop. These shots were developed with the director to explore camera movement, composition and pacing.”.